Africa Bulletin | 6 January 2011
(Note: The Atama land concession concerns Congo-Brazzaville, not the DRC as reported in this article)
DRC: Oil palm invasion era
Palm oil is the most consumed vegetable oil in the world (25%) - 42 million tons in twelve months in 2008-2009 according to USDA). It is now used primarily by the industry: 80% in food, cosmetics 19% and 1% for bio-fuels. But palm oil is particularly preferred for its low production cost. The yield per hectare of palm oil is indeed ten times higher than soybeans. 100 kg of fruit yields about 22 kg of oil”.
If ethnic rivalry in the DRC has attracted worldwide attention, fighting for the economic wealth of this country, which was the largest exporter of cobalt, the fourth largest exporter of diamonds and one of the top ten world producers of uranium, copper, manganese and tin, still remain hidden.
In 2009 the State Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock had signed, on behalf of the DRC, a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese company ZTE Telecommunications International, which is a project of production and operation of the palm oil. At a cost of one billion U.S. dollars, this project will extend over three million hectares in the Bandundu and Equateur provinces, Orientale Province and part of the province of Kasai West.
Today, society Atama Plantation of Malaysia will invest 300 million dollars to develop 470.000 hectares, including 180 000 of palm groves, and 290. 000 for ancillary industries, for industrial production of palm oil estimated at 90. 000 tonnes per year ", in northern Congo, said Minister of Agriculture, Rigobert Maboundou. The Minister concluded with the CEO of the Malaysian company, Seong Yong Chua, a concession contract to operate an agro-industrial palm oil activity for 15 years. The areas to exploit, said the minister, are spread over the regions of Cuvette (north) and Sangha (North-western).
Mr. Seong Yong, for its part, said that "Atama Plantation provides for the development of downstream industries such as edible oils and pharmaceuticals. He added that plantation development will create 20. 000 jobs in the regions concerned. Until then Malaysian companies were present in the Congo in forestry, especially in the South. The Congo has 10 to 12 million hectares of usable land. But its food imports are estimated by FAO at 198 million Euros per year. However, What does not emerge from the foregoing is that the expansion of palm oil is one of the main causes of deforestation, leading to significant changes in land use and resources, radical changes in vegetation and local ecosystems, with substantial investment and new infrastructures, movements and relocation of populations to large changes in the local and international trade that affect local communities.